‘We know cy­ber-se­cu­rity breaches can have a domino ef­fect’

Yorkshire Post - Business - - FRONT PAGE - Beckie Hart

In a world in­creas­ingly driven by data, it’s never been more im­por­tant for busi­nesses to prac­tise re­spon­si­ble data pro­tec­tions and reaf­firm con­sumer con­fi­dence. Firms should be aware that com­mit­ment to data pri­vacy is a fun­da­men­tal part of a busi­ness’s li­cense to op­er­ate in the mod­ern econ­omy. Those that don’t show such com­mit­ment could po­ten­tially lose a sig­nif­i­cant amount of their cus­tomer base.

The CBI re­cently launched a sur­vey, Trust in Tech, at our an­nual Cy­ber-se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence, where the research showed that how a com­pany han­dles per­sonal data is a top pri­or­ity for po­ten­tial cus­tomers and busi­ness part­ners. Al­most nine out of 10 peo­ple re­gard good data se­cu­rity and the pro­tec­tion of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion as the key pri­or­ity for them when de­cid­ing where to spend their money.

The con­fer­ence em­pha­sised why de­vel­op­ing a cy­ber-se­cu­rity strat­egy should be a top pri­or­ity, for two main rea­sons. The first, of course, is that se­cu­rity it­self is vi­tal. As busi­nesses in­creas­ingly move from the phys­i­cal to the dig­i­tal, cy­ber-se­cu­rity has be­come cen­tral to a com­pany’s very ex­is­tence.

But the sec­ond, and per­haps more un­ex­pected rea­son is that cy­ber-se­cu­rity has a se­ri­ous di­rect im­pact on con­sumer trust. The sur­vey sug­gests that re­spon­si­ble data use is the num­ber one rea­son a cus­tomer will stay loyal to a busi­ness. And ir­re­spon­si­ble data use is the main mo­tive for look­ing else­where. So, hav­ing a good cy­ber-se­cu­rity strat­egy will ac­tu­ally make a busi­ness more com­pet­i­tive.

But it’s not just about in­di­vid­ual com­pa­nies, we know that se­ri­ous cy­ber-se­cu­rity breaches can have a domino ef­fect and harm the way the pub­lic sees busi­ness as a whole. If you ask any CEO they’ll tell you that the fastest route to com­pany ex­tinc­tion is a break­down in trust. Whether firms spent years build­ing up a rep­u­ta­tion or min­utes, all it takes is one in­ci­dent to ruin it. Not only that, but data breaches un­der­mine pub­lic trust in busi­ness and po­ten­tially have a rip­ple ef­fect across the econ­omy. In a world of scan­dals – whether it’s pay rows, tax avoid­ance, or sex­ual ha­rass­ment – this trust is more im­por­tant than ever.

To put cus­tomers at the heart of cy­ber-se­cu­rity strat­egy, busi­ness must show lead­er­ship, go be­yond le­gal­is­tic pri­vacy pol­icy and com­mu­ni­cate this to both cus­tomers and em­ploy­ees alike. When we think about pub­lic trust in data, the ques­tion isn’t how good a firms’ cy­ber-se­cu­rity is. In­stead, the ques­tion be­comes: how well is the cy­ber-se­cu­rity com­mu­ni­cated to the cus­tomers? In many ways, cus­tomers are tak­ing a risk by shar­ing their data with firms. So it’s im­por­tant for com­pa­nies to re­as­sure cus­tomers their data is be­ing kept safe.

Cus­tomer en­gage­ment needs to hap­pen from day one, not just when things go wrong. Firms must keep these two ques­tions in mind when cre­at­ing a cy­ber-se­cu­rity strat­egy, en­sur­ing that they’re us­ing data in the way con­sumers ex­pect and are telling peo­ple about it. If com­pa­nies do this then they’ll go a long way in build­ing up trust.

Cy­ber-se­cu­rity has to be a board­room pri­or­ity. It can’t be tack­led by the IT team in iso­la­tion.

We must go be­yond hav­ing a pri­vacy pol­icy and we need to get to a point where cus­tomers have a clear roadmap of how their data is col­lected, used, shared, or erased. This seems like a lot. Pos­si­bly like a level of trans­parency that could put peo­ple off. But the facts are that trans­parency ac­tu­ally tops the list of fac­tors that make cus­tomers more com­fort­able shar­ing their data.

It’s clear that the rep­u­ta­tion of busi­ness it­self is at stake – so firms can, and must, do more. The most ob­vi­ous rev­e­la­tion from our research is that the power to im­prove the rep­u­ta­tion of busi­ness lies firmly in the hands of busi­ness it­self.

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